National Patent Application Drafting Competition

All Law Students are invited by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to participate in the 2020 National Patent Application Drafting Competition.

The objective of this competition is to introduce law students to issues arising in United States patent law and to develop their patent application drafting, amending, and prosecuting skills.

The program is an expansion of the International Patent Drafting Competition and is the brainchild of Damian Porcari – Director of the Midwest Regional Patent Office in Detroit and longtime in-house IP counsel at Ford.

The competition:

Student teams will be given a hypothetical invention statement for which they will then search the prior art, prepare a specification, draft claims, and present their reasoning for patentability before a panel of judges comprised of patent examiners, practitioners, and high profile guest judges.

Students will draft various patent documents prior to the competition. Afterward, the will head to their competition site for presentation and perhaps to respond to examiner input.

The initial phase of competition will consist of up to 15 teams in a regional round taking place in Detroit; Denver; San Jose; Dallas; and Washington, DC area. The winner from each region will be invited to compete in the National Final Competition at USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, VA, on April 20, 2020 before a panel of senior USPTO officials and other esteemed judges.

Registration Closes December 15, 2019. Register here

2020 US Patent and Trademark Office National Patent Drafting Competition

Beware of Social Security Scams

Social Security phone scams are the #1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security. Over the past year, these scams—misleading victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for Social Security number problems—have skyrocketed. Social Security encourages you to use the new online form to report Social Security phone scams to disrupt the scammers and help us reduce this type of fraud, and reduce the number of victims.

“We are taking action to raise awareness and prevent scammers from harming Americans,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “I am deeply troubled that our country has not been able to stop these crooks from deceiving some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Social Security employees will occasionally contact you by telephone or mail for business purposes if you have ongoing business with the agency. However, Social Security employees will not:

  • Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended.
  • Contact you to demand an immediate payment.
  • Ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash.
  • Demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.
  • Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.

Remember that Social Security employees will never threaten you. If there’s a problem with your Social Security record, Social Security will mail you a letter. If Social Security needs you to submit payments, the agency will provide instructions in the letter, including options to make those payments

“Awareness is our best hope to thwart the scammers,” said Gail Ennis, Inspector General for Social Security. “Tell your friends and family about them and report them to us when you receive them, but most importantly, just hang up and ignore the calls.”

 

This is reprinted from the Social Security website. 

Four common tax errors that can be costly for small businesses

A small business owner often wears many different hats. They might have to wear their boss hat one day, and the employee hat the next. When tax season comes around, it might be their tax hat.

They may think of doing their taxes as just another item to quickly cross off their to-do list. However, this approach could leave taxpayers open to mistakes when filing and paying taxes.

Accidentally failing to comply with tax laws, violating tax codes, or filling out forms incorrectly can leave taxpayers and their businesses open to possible penalties. The IRS encourages small businesses to explore using a reputable tax preparer – including certified public accountants, Enrolled Agents or other knowledgeable tax professionals – to help with their tax situation. Filing electronically can also help avoid common errors.

Being aware of common mistakes can also help tame the stress of tax time. Here are a few mistakes small business owners should avoid:

Underpaying estimated taxes
Business owners should generally make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when their return is filed. If they don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, they may be charged a penalty.

Depositing employment taxes
Business owners with employees are expected to deposit taxes they withhold, plus the employer’s share of those taxes, through electronic fund transfers.  If those taxes are not deposited correctly and on time, the business owner may be charged a penalty.

Filing late
Just like individual returns, business tax returns must be filed in a timely manner. To avoid late filing penalties, taxpayers should be aware of all tax requirements for their type of business the filing deadlines.

Not separating business and personal expenses
It can be tempting to use one credit card for all expenses especially if the business is a sole proprietorship. Doing so can make it very hard to tell legitimate business expenses from personal ones. This could cause errors when claiming deductions and become a problem if the taxpayer or their business is ever audited.

Taxpayers should watch out for gift card scam

Taxpayers should always be on the lookout for scams. Thieves want to trick people in order to steal their personal information, scam them out of money, or talk them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes. Scam attempts can peak during tax season, but taxpayers need to remain vigilant all year.

Gift card scams are on the rise. In fact, there are many reports of taxpayers being asked to pay a fake tax bill through the purchase of gift cards.

Here’s how one scenario usually happens:

  • Someone posing as an IRS agent calls the taxpayer and informs them their identity has been stolen.
  • The fake agent says the taxpayer’s identify was used to open fake bank accounts.
  • The caller tells the taxpayer to buy gift cards from various stores and await further instructions.
  • The scammer then contacts the taxpayer again telling them to provide the gift cards’ access numbers.

Here’s how people can know if it is really the IRS calling. The IRS does not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they owe. All taxpayers should be aware of their rights.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Revoke the taxpayer’s driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status.

People who believe they’ve been targeted by a scammer should:

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. They can also call 800-366-4484.
  • Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. They should add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. The sender can add “IRS Phone Scam” to the subject line.

 

More information:
IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting
Consumer Alerts
Report Phishing
Phone Scams